Casper the Friendly Ghost celebrates the 65th ...
Casper the Friendly Ghost celebrates the 65th anniversary of the BSA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s the friendliest ghost you know, but could he also be a great given name?

Thanks to Christy for suggesting Casper as our Baby Name of the Day.

Casper is the Dutch and Scandinavian form of an ancient appellation.  By tradition, it is the name of one of the three wise men.  It probably comes from a Persian or Chaldean word meaning treasurer – appropriate for a dignitary sent bearing gifts to a future king.  The name seems to have evolved to Gaspar by the sixth century – and while there’s debate, it appears that the G spelling probably came first.

It’s a well-traveled name: he’s Gaspar, Gaspare, Gaspard in Spanish, Italian, and French.  The G became a K in German and Polish – Kaspar, Kacper.  (The c makes a ts sound.)  He’s Jasper and Jesper in medieval English, though Casper also surfaces in English, too.  The various forms seem to have been very popular throughout Europe into the 1700s.

Casper appeared in the US Top 1000 from 1880 through 1933, but he’s been gone ever since.

In the US, Casper has always been eclipsed by Jasper.  He’s never left the Top 1000, and as of 2011 was back to #282.  We can find Jaspers throughout history: Jasper Tudor was uncle to Henry VII, and became Duke of Bedford.  More recently there’s artist Jasper Johns and author Jasper Fforde.  Today, Jasper is also a mineral and gemstone, putting him in the company of Ruby and Pearl.

Other notables by the name include:

  • Mayan ruler Rabbit 11 ruled in the fifth century, and is sometimes referred to as Casper – because his name glyph looks like the cartoon ghost.
  • You might find a listing for Saint Casper, though he was born in Italy in the late 1700s and would have been known as Gaspare.
  • Casper, Wyoming takes its name from Casper Collins, a lieutenant at the original fort who was killed in a skirmish with the local Native American tribe.
  • The Badrutt family invented the idea of winter tourism in St. Moritz, Switzerland, transforming how wealthy Europeans spent their winter months forevermore.  At least one of the family members answered to Caspar.
  • Actor Casper Van Dien, Jr. is wearing a family name – one that he’s passed down to his son.

And then there’s the cartoon.

Back in the 1930s, Casper was created for a children’s book, but was sold to Paramount Studio instead and first appeared on screen in 1945.  The name would have been fading even then – appropriate for a ghost.  He appeared in comics, shorts and cartoons through the 1960s and 70s.  A 1995 feature film revived Casper for another generation.

The animated ghost probably took name out of contention for years.  But could he make a comeback?  In his favor:

  • He’s got great nickname potentials – Cas, Cash, Cap
  • Ends with r is a huge category for boys – boosting Jasper
  • Claudia Schiffer has daughters Clementine and Cosima and son Caspar
  • Jason Lee gave the name to a daughter, Casper Alice

In 2012, could Casper shed his animated past to be seen as a lively option for a son?

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My main association with this name is (prepare to be blown away) Suppen-Kaspar from Struwwelpeter. You know, the naughty boy who wouldn’t eat his dinner and so got thinner and thinner?

  2. I have a 12 year old called Caspar- and he tells me that the “friendly ghost” connection has never been an issue. We live in Australia and he has attended 4 different schools, has not been teased about it yet.
    i love his name, there are many “Jaspers” out there, but we have never met another Caspar. His brother is “Otto”- and I adore this name also…

  3. An observation on the racial connotations – I think it’s interesting that in some places the name has apparently taken on an association with “whiteness” (thanks to the cartoon) given that Caspar of the Three Wise Men is sometimes depicted as a dark-skinned man. Also, on Nameberry, “Caspar” appears in a list of “Early African-American Names” (, apparently because it was among the names “not normally used for whites” that slave-owners gave to some of their slaves. While I think it’s valid to take into account current associations with certain names, I think these observations show that name associations are also quite malleable.

    1. Malleable is just the word – and sometimes they can change in a matter of years. I do think Casper has become more and more wearable.

  4. I love this name! As well as the alternate spellings Kasper and Caspar, though I think I would go with Casper. As previous commenters have said, the association with the ghost is likely generational. The last big Casper the Friendly Ghost release was almost 20 years ago, so most children now won’t even know about it. I mean, most 19 and 20 year-olds I’ve talked to don’t know who Kelly Kapowski is, and Saved By the Bell was on the air only a year or so before they were born, not more than 20, AND there are reruns on a regular basis. I love Louis C.K.’s take on kids making fun of names (warning: contains a “curse” word):

    And as for the comments about slurs, I think most here have never heard it/don’t recognize it as a racial slur because in order for something to be a slur, the group that is being targeted has to care. Same with snowflake, felix??, or whatever else comes up. If they have no effect on those targeted, they are only perceived as slurs by those who use them. Not really an effective tactic for bringing someone down.

  5. My name is Winter. I’m a very pale girl, and nobody EVER used the name in the way of a slur. I often joked that I was pale as snow white or a ghost and people didn’t see the connection or even the connection to my name. I lived in Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. I have also traveled all of the US and had not ever ran into any slurs with my name or even the type of slur you mentioned. I had heard of cracker and most recently chocolate chip. The later was the parents choice because the father was black and mother white. I think for the most part, majority of the world wouldn’t associate it with a slur or are familiar with gang or slum area terminology…unless it hits the major news networks.

  6. I named my son (born August 2013) Casper. Fortunately, I’m single, as I don’t think I would have been able to convince a wife to go along based on some of the pushback I got from my family, but since he’s been born, I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments on it. I’ll admit that the first thing I thought of was not the ghost, but Caspar Weinburger because I’m a politics junkie, but I don’t see that he’ll get teased a whole bunch over it. I gave him a common middle name (Jack) as a fallback and I call him ‘Cap’ just as often as ‘Casper’. I’m actually happy with it staying a well known but rare name. I disqualified any name on the top 100 list from consideration.